Tee times and textbooks

An Irish golfer adjusts to the American game, balancing academics with athletics

by Jeff Samoray, Published December 04, 2013

For Stuart Grehan, attending Eastern Michigan University is about more than developing effective study habits. It’s about tweaking his golf swing.

Grehan, a sophomore business communications major, hails from Tullamore, a town in the Midlands of Ireland. He came to Eastern to join the men’s golf team and embark on a path that he hopes leads to the PGA Tour.

“Golf at the collegiate level is much bigger in America than it is in Ireland or Europe,” says Grehan, 20. "I came here because I wanted to play a highly competitive NCAA schedule, with the goal of turning professional. I chose Eastern because it’s the best fit for me athletically and academically.”

Prior to enrolling at Eastern in the Winter 2013 semester, Grehan earned a reputation as one of Ireland’s top amateur players. As a member of the Irish National Team, he won the 2012 Irish Youth Championship and was ranked No. 14 overall as an amateur in Ireland’s golf rankings. Pretty impressive for someone who only began playing at age 13.

“I’m kind of a late bloomer,” Grehan says. “I played soccer and a little rugby growing up. My dad, who likes to play golf, just took me out one day. I’ve been addicted to the sport ever since. It’s a tough, unique sport. You never play the same round twice. Golf also demands discipline.”

Grehan found playing the American game meant changing his approach to the sport.

“The green speeds here are a lot quicker than the courses at home,” he says. “The weather also impacts my play. Back home, I’m used to playing in rainy and cold conditions with 30 mile per hour winds. I had to hit the ball low to cut through the wind. In America, the players hit the ball a lot harder. Everything is through the air—long and high. I love playing in calm conditions with 90 degree heat.”

Grehan’s work ethic and perfectionist attitude is paying off. The Mid-American Conference twice selected him for Men’s Golfer of the Week during the fall portion of the 2013-14 season. He earned medalist honors at the Firestone Invitational in October. It was the first victory of his NCAA career and third top-10 finish.

“Stuart has the ability to play at an elite level and has made an incredible impact on our team,” Coach Bruce Cunningham says. “His teammates not only learn about his culture, but also how he approaches the game. Now, Stuart has to work on maturing as a player and channeling his competitiveness. He’s also learning what it takes to handle a demanding class schedule and a Division I golf schedule. For all student-athletes, it takes a substantial time investment.”

Traveling five straight weeks for NCAA matches inevitably results in missed classes. But Grehan is applying the same level of discipline to his studies.

“Adjusting to a demanding academic schedule is hard, but all of my professors have been very helpful,” Grehan says. “They’re always available if I have questions after class. Overall, I think I’m adjusting well to life in America. The culture is interesting, the golfing weather is great and I’ve made lots of friends.”

Visit the EMU Men’s Golf website to access a complete team roster, schedule, statistics and more.

Geoff Larcom



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